P:olicy & Analysis

Report: Charter Middle Schools Don’t Improve College Outcomes

A new report from the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance finds students in charter middle schools didn’t have any signs of increased academic achievement when it comes to earning college degrees compared to their peers.

While the charter school sector has grown significantly since 1992, a new study from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance finds middle school enrollment in a charter school did not affect students’ chances of enrolling or completing college. The study focuses on students who were enrolled in middle school during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years in 36 charter middle schools in 15 states.

“Students offered admission to charter middle schools in the study were about as likely to attend four-year institutions and two-year institutions as those not offered admission. There were also no effects on the number of years that students attended college, either overall or in four-year versus two-year schools,” according to the report.

When it comes to test scores, the researchers found there was “little evidence” that a charter middle school’s effects on middle school scores were related to improvements on college enrollment and completion compared to other schools.

This new study comes at a time when ED Secretary Betsy DeVos is pushing for more funding for charter schools through Education Freedom Scholarships. The new policy would provide a $5 billion annual federal tax credit for voluntary donations to state-based scholarship programs.

The scholarships will be funded through voluntary contributions from taxpayers to state-identified scholarship granting organizations. States would also have the option whether they want to participate in the initiative and how to select eligible students, education providers and allowable education expenses.

"The key element of the proposal is freedom for all involved," said DeVos in a statement when the new initiative was announced. "Students, families, teachers, schools, states — all can participate, if they choose, and do so in the ways that work best for them. The major shift is that a student's needs and preferences, not their address or family income, will determine the type and quality of education they can pursue."

At the same time that DeVos announced the new scholarship initiative in February, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) introduced the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act bill into both chambers of Congress.

A fully copy of the NCEE study can be found here.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe covering education policy and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

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